Are The Days Of The “Training Day” Numbered?

I was up in Telford this week for an awesome training day with the guys from MiTek – the first ever get-together for the 50-strong, internationally-based software development group.

At first, some participants seemed a bit nervous to speak to colleagues they didn’t know – especially those from other countries. But after a few hours of structured activities, there was a real buzz. People were relaxed and connected, ready to dive into a 24-hour team-building hackathon together.

Of course, that was the purpose of the series of activities we’d planned. More than just “mixers”, these were designed to get the group thinking about, and practising, the skills of creative, collaborative dialogue. 

And… we could have done all of those activities over video conference. I have done all of them over video conference. I offer that specific training as a fully-remote product. And I know those same activities will get a group working more closely together, even if they rarely, or never, meet. 

But when delivered remotely, they aren’t a full day. When remote, I’d normally split the training day into four 90-minute blocks, delivered once a week.

And on the three-hour motorway journey home, I was wondering… are the days of the “training day” numbered?

Clearly, there can be great value in getting the gang together. A an “IRL” event builds relationships like nothing else – all the experts say so.

It may cost a fortune, and present all sorts of diversity issues, but everyone agrees that meeting up, especially for a residential event, is great for team development.

And… I’m a bit reluctant to fully join the experts on this.

If the aim is to get people working better together, don’t you need to get them working better together from wherever they are? Wouldn’t it make sense to combine the “team communication” activities with learning how to use your everyday communication tools to best advantage?

What about the environmental impact of all that travel? What if your team members refuse to fly?

Perhaps most importantly when it comes to training, micro-dosing works. The training experts are all lined up in favour of short, focussed chunks of training which can be applied immediately. (There are controversies around the value of recorded courses – lots of sub-five-minute online videos – but they’re very different from live online training.)

Splitting the training into four weekly blocks means that participants can apply what they’ve learned from a class, and come to the next one with stories about what worked, what didn’t, and what they need to learn next. And at the same time, they build relationships with their fellow participants, whether they’re at the next desk or on the next continent.

It’s great fun to meet up IRL, and to finally hug someone you’ve known for ages online. I don’t want to stop that feeling. I’m all in favour of beers with colleagues, too.

But that’s not training. “Training days” are an artefact of the need for trainers and participants to travel. So it seems to me that if you don’t need travel, you don’t need “training days”.

  • What do you think? Please comment below.
  • Picture shows (L-R) MiTek’s Johnny Winterlund and Kyle Richardson, myself, and co-trainer Steve McCann

3 thoughts on “Are The Days Of The “Training Day” Numbered?”

  1. I am excited and want to know more how to do team building remotely in small chunks.

    That’s the challenge I will be facing soon.

  2. When you facilitate well structured moments for sharing personal thoughts and social and emotional interaction in online meetings instead of focussing only on the training topic or meeting agenda, the use of online sessions will be more natural to more people and organizations.

    Participants have (most of the time) to learn to share their own thoughts and social and emotional topics. A lot of people who are not functioning well in an IRL situation, they love online sessions, because of the structured way of working and sharing is part of the proces. It is important to talk about participants needs and experiences in remote teams.

    The role of the facilitator and online meeting designer is very important. Participants have to feel safe to share their own thoughts and social and emotional topics, so group dynamics for remote teams and other forms of online and synchronous group sessions is part of facilitators role. The facilitator and online meeting designer have to plan the interactions, choose the relevant technology or tools and scaffold the group.

    After 10 years of experience as a 95% online worker, facilitator and designer of online collaboration and online learning sessions, I learned that the methodology of IRL sessions does not always work online. So if you want to train online, get some help to re-construct habits en explore the new opportunities technology provides us.

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